Installing a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can really elevate the look and feel of the space. But while tiling the backsplash itself is often the most labor-intensive part, properly finishing the edges and corners is equally important for a seamless and professional result. There are several techniques for finishing a backsplash, depending on the type of tile, the layout, and personal preference. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the key steps for finishing tile backsplash edges for a flawless look.
Preparing the Surface
Before installing the backsplash tiles, taking the time to properly prepare the surface is essential.
Make sure the wall area is clean and free of any debris, grease, or soap residue. Wipe it down with a damp cloth and an abrasive cleaning spray. This allows the tile adhesive to adhere properly.
Apply Backerboard or Cement Board
If tiling directly onto drywall, it’s important to first install a layer of backerboard or cement board. This provides a water-resistant, stable surface for the tile. Cut pieces to size and screw into place on the backsplash area.
Waterproofing prevents moisture damage to the wall behind the tiles. Apply a waterproofing membrane or use a waterproofing sealer on the backerboard according to the product instructions.
Make sure to measure and mark proper tile spacing on the wall. Use level lines for evenly spaced rows. Account for potential slight variances in tile size by leaving a 1/8 inch gap between tiles. Plan the layout so tiles at edges and corners are cut to at least half their size, avoiding many small slivers.
Cutting the backsplash tiles accurately is key for a professional finish.
A manual tile cutter is useful for straight cuts. Score the tile on the cutter then snap it evenly along the line.
For angled, L-shaped, or hole cuts, a wet saw is the best tool. Mark cuts on the tiles and carefully guide through the saw for precise results.
Use a grinder with a diamond tile blade to smooth any rough edges on cut tiles and shape intricate tile patterns.
Always wear safety goggles and a particle mask when cutting tiles to protect from debris.
Installing Backsplash Tiles
Once the surface prep is complete, it’s time to install the backsplash tiles. Follow these tips:
Apply Tile Adhesive
Spread a layer of tile adhesive on the backsplash area, using a notched trowel. Only cover one small section at a time to prevent drying.
Firmly press tiles into the adhesive one by one. Use spacers between tiles for even spacing. Ensure tiles are aligned level.
Fill Any Gaps
If any gaps appear between tiles, fill them in with extra tile adhesive before it dries. Remove any adhesive on the tile face with a damp cloth.
Let the tile adhesive fully cure for 24-48 hours. Avoid getting the backsplash area wet during this time.
Grouting the Backsplash
Grouting fills the spaces between the tiles, securing them in place. Follow these key steps:
Prepare grout by mixing powder with water or latex additive in a bucket. Let stand for 10 minutes, then remix before applying.
Using a grout float or rubber grout float, spread grout liberally over the surface, working in small sections. Push into tile joints.
Clean Excess Grout
As you work, use a damp sponge to wipe any excess grout off the tile surface before it dries. Rinse sponge frequently.
Once grout has dried fully, use a soft cloth to wipe off any remaining haze on tiles. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely.
After 2-3 days of curing, apply caulk into any joints between the backsplash and countertops, cabinets, or walls.
Finishing the Backsplash Edges
The most important techniques for a polished backsplash focus on the edges and corners. Here are some options:
Bullnose Edge Tiles
Bullnose tiles have a rounded finished edge. Use bullnose tiles on the sides and potentially top and bottom edges for a smooth finish. They can match or contrast with the field tiles.
Metal Edge Trim
Metal strips like aluminum or stainless steel make another clean option for finishing backsplash edges. Cut metal trim to size and install along any exposed side, top, or bottom edges.
End Cap Tile
Special end cap tiles are manufactured to terminate backsplash edges. Look for rounded or sloped shapes. Use silicone adhesive to attach end cap tiles for a built-in finished look.
Wood Edge Banding
For a rustic accent, use strips of wood trim or barnwood planks along the edges. Stain or paint them to coordinate with the backsplash.
Cork Edge Banding
As a softer accent option, install self-adhesive cork rolls along any exposed edges. Look for thin cork strips made specifically for backsplashes.
One simple finish is to run a bead of clear silicone caulk along any unfinished edges where tiles meet the wall, countertop, cabinets, or windows. Smooth the caulk line with a finger for a clean look.
Finishing the Backsplash Corners
Special treatment for backsplash corners gives a polished, professional look. Consider these options:
Bullnose Corner Pieces
Just like edge tiles, matching bullnose corner tiles provide a rounded finished corner. Angle tiles 45 degrees at corners for a seamless transition.
Decorative Tile Inserts
Use a contrasting mosaic, marble, or glass tile to create an inlay at corners and edges. This decorative detail lends visual interest.
Coordinating Metal Inlays
Cut metal strips or mesh can be installed in corners as an accent. Polished metal like stainless steel, copper, or aluminum give a sleek finished look.
Wood Corner Molding
For a cozy look, cut wood trim pieces at 45 degree angles and install in each corner. Stain molding to match any wood details in the kitchen or bathroom.
Caulk Corner Joints
Apply caulk in any tight inside corners or gaps. Maintain a consistent small grout joint then smooth caulk over for a minimalist look.
Protecting and Caring for the Finished Backsplash
Once installation and grouting is complete, be sure to properly care for the finished backsplash.
Applying a penetrating grout sealer protects porous grout from stains. Follow instructions to apply over all grout lines and allow drying fully.
Use gentle daily cleaning methods on backsplash surfaces. Warm water, mild dish soap, or stone cleaner work well. Avoid harsh chemicals.
Periodically reapply grout sealer every 1-2 years. Resealing keeps grout protected as sealers naturally wear over time.
Proper finishing is the final step to take a backsplash from basic to beautiful. With the right edge and corner treatment, along with ongoing care, your finished backsplash will stay looking fresh and flawless for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you finish off open edges of a backsplash?
Some of the best ways to finish off open edges of a backsplash include installing bullnose edge tiles, metal trim strips, end cap tiles, wood banding, or caulking the seams. Choose an option that matches the style of your backsplash and kitchen decor.
Should you use caulk or grout between backsplash and countertop?
It’s best to use caulk between a backsplash and countertop. Unlike rigid grout, caulk allows for slight expansion and contraction between the tile and countertop materials. Apply a flexible, waterproof silicone caulk for a clean finish.
What is the most popular backsplash edge?
The most popular and versatile backsplash edge finish is bullnose tiles. Their rounded edge has a clean, finished look. Bullnose tiles come in many styles to match or stand out from your field tile. They provide full protection on exposed sides.
How do you finish around a kitchen window with backsplash?
Finishing around a window requires careful tile cutting and alignment. Use bullnose tiles on the sides and specialty angled corner pieces top and bottom. Caulk any gaps between tiles and the window trim for a watertight seal. An accent trim or inlay around the window can add style.
Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?
Backsplashes can stop at the wall cabinets, extend to the bottom of the upper cabinets, or go all the way to the ceiling. The main factors are your personal preference for the look, mitigating grease splatter, and the ceiling height. Full height is popular in contemporary kitchens or where cabinets are higher.
How do you finish the upper edge of a backsplash?
If not butting to the cabinets or ceiling, the top backsplash edge can be finished with bullnose tiles, metal trim, or wood trim. Caulking the seam looks clean if tiling to the ceiling. For a decorative look, add a row of accent tiles along the upper backsplash line.
Installing backsplash tile finishes the look of a kitchen or bathroom remodel while also protecting the walls. Paying special attention to properly finishing the outer edges, corners, gaps, and seams gives a clean, integrated appearance. With the right combination of tiles, trim, caulk, and grout, both novice and pro DIYers can achieve a magazine-worthy finished backsplash. Considering the techniques in this guide during planning and installation will result in a durable, beautiful backsplash you will enjoy for many years. What finishing ideas will you incorporate for your next backsplash project?